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Full text of "A sermon commemorative of the Rt. Rev. Thomas Frederick Davis, D.D., late bishop of the Diocese of South Carolina, preached 10th of December, 1871, in Grace Church, Camden"

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" But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that 
I might finish my course with joy and the ministry which I have received of the Lord 
Jesus, to testify the Gospel of the grace of God. — Acts xx, 24. 

Saint Paul, whose words these are, is taking leave of the 
Ephesian elders, on his way to Jerusalem, where bonds and im- 
prisonment await him. At the seaport, ready to depart, he had 
sent for them, and now, as they assembled, every eye was fixed 
on him, every ear was open to catch and dwell upon his fare- 
well charge. And when he had spoken it, we read : " He 
kneeled down and prayed with them all. And they all wept 
sore, and fell on Paul's neck and kissed him, sorrowing, most of 
all, for the words which he spake, that they should see his face 
no more." 

But, in withdrawing himself, how great and precious a legacy 
he left with those Christians at Ephesus, and with the Church 
to the present day! If but the memory of the just is blessed, 
how much more so when it descends to us embalmed in living 
words of divine and eternal truth ! Such are these of our text : 
for, although St. Paul, by his long ministry of zeal and en- 
durance, has left us the example of one whom none of those 
things did ever move, and who refused, time and again, to hold 
his life dear unto himself — yet, what an invaluable motto, or 
rather what an expressive key to the man and to his ministry 
do these actual words from his own lips convey ! The mere 
events of his eventful life might have been told with even more 
of fulnessand graphic description than now we possess: the 
externals of the great Apostle, his travels and adventures, might 
have been narrated to us by St. Luke with more precision and 
historic formality ; but if it had been done at the cost of leaving 
out these words, revealing to us, as they do, at a glance, the 
inner life, the very secret-spring of the Apostolic spirit, little 
would have been the gain and great would have been the loss. 

When St. Paul, calmly facing the work before him in all its 
bonds and afflictions, said : " But none of these things move 
me; neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might 
finish my course with joy, and the ministry which I have re- 
ceived of the Lord Jesus to testify the gospel of the grace of 
God," he reveals to us a spirit of unflinching devotion to duty. 
Such was the spirit of the incarnate Son of God, our Lord and 
his Lord, Jesus Christ; and only from Him, the Master, could it 
have descended upon the disciple. Such, in terms placing it far 
above all common heroism, and far beyond all mere fanaticism, 
is the spirit of the Christian ministry, described by St. Paul to 
Timothy, as not a spirit of fear, " but of power, and of love, and 
of a sound mind." Such, in all ages, has been the spirit of the 
" faithful minister of Christ," from Epaphras, in the earliest suc- 
cession of the Apostolic Church, laboring fervently and having 
a great zeal for them of Colosse, down to the present time. Yea, 
God has not left himself without a witness in our own day and 
generation; for have we not fresh in our memories, Brethren, 
the ministry of our dear, deceased Bishop strikingly exhibiting 
that spirit of unflinching devotion to duty for Christ's cause and 
kingdom which St. Paul showed ? Like him he was moved by 
none of those things, counting not his life dear unto himself, so 
that he, too, might finish his course with joy, and the ministry 
which he had received of the Lord Jesus Christ to testify the 
Gospel of the grace of God. 

An earthly pilgrimage, burdened with infirmities for upwards 
of forty years, has been ended. A ministry, faithful and zeal- 
ous, and powerful, and blessed of God, has at length been closed ! 
An Episcopate of eighteen years, long to be remembered, 
pitched in troublous times, yet wise and gentle, and firm and 
hopeful to the last, has suddenly been suspended ! The blessed 
Jesus, that gracious Bishop and Shepherd of our souls, has 
called him away from the distractions of time to the rest of 
eternity, — from the divisions of Christendom to the Church in 
glory, where there is but one fold, and but one shepherd. And we 
may well pause to-day, in reverent study of our loss, which is 
his gain ; pondering no dark dispensation or chastisement ; sor- 


rowing not as those without hope ; but endeavoring to collect 
and clasp together fondly the memories of his life, in one re- 
view ; to see wherein his excellence and his eminence lay ; to 
thank God for his testimony and example ; and to learn some 
lessons from his holy, his devoted, and his most instructive 

Would that some more worthy tribute than this I bring were 
to be spoken in his behalf! Yet, if in places the words of this 
discourse should appear to fall short of glowing eulogy, it will 
be only because I knew him well enough to discover how he 
shrank from exaltation, and rose above it in Christian self- 
abasement. If again, in other parts, this memorial should seem 
to outrun in terms and measures the ordinary admiration of 
slight acquaintance, let it be — not my excuse — but my warrant 
and authority that, in the ordering of God's Providence, I knew 
him long and intimately, sat at his feet and hung upon his 
words ; have received and treasured up his fatherly counsels, 
and returned his affectionate confidence with an unfeigned filial 

Thomas Frederick Davis was born near Wilmington, North 
Carolina, 8th February, 1804, thus lacking, at the date of his 
death, but two months to complete the 68th year of a lifetime. 
His father, Thomas Frederick Davis, had married Sarah Isabella 
Eagles, and this was their eldest son. They had two sons, 
Junius and George, and a daughter, yet living — -the former son 
died in 1 86 1 ; the latter still lives — once a member of the Con- 
federate Cabinet, now a prominent lawyer in North Carolina. 

In going back to Colonial times, we find the ancestors of the 
Davis family resting awhile in Boston, and then settling in South 
Carolina, in the Parish of St. James', Goose Creek ; among them 
were Sir John Yeamons and James Moore, both Governors of the 
Colony. Later they removed to the rice lands of the Cape Fear 
River, where they eventually became identified with Wilming- 
ton, and made it their home. The two Carolinas were at one 
time known as one colony. May the ties that now bind us 
together in the chronicles of the past, in the wars of the State, 
arid the peace of the Church, be evermore cherished and per- 
petuated ! 

After being baptized in Wilmington by the Rev. Dr. Hailing, 
who afterwards became Rector of our Georgetown Church, and 
whose grave is to be found there still, the eldest son was 
sent by his parents at ten years of age to a boarding and pre- 
paratory school, at Chapel Hill, hard by the University of North 
Carolina, at that place, and attached to it. Four years spent at 
the school, and four more at the University, grounded and set- 
tled the young man in the educational preparation for life. The 
Bishop, in after years, spoke of his not having studied or pro- 
fited so much at Chapel Hill, as he could and ought to have 
done. Nevertheless, he gave ample evidence of power and 
promise among his fellow students. Of his seniors were Green, 
Bishop of Mississippi, and Otey, Bishop of Tennessee ; while 
among his classmates were James K. Polk, President of the 
United States ; also, Bishop Polk, of Tennessee, Dr. Francis 
Hawks of our Church, and Judge Battle, of North Carolina. 

Returning to Wilmington after his graduation, full of life, 
ambition and intelligence, and, moreover, stimulated by a doting 
father, he entered immediately upon the study of law : in due 
time being admitted to the membership of the bar, he practiced 
with success and rapidly growing distinction in the courts of 
that section of North Carolina. This continued for the space of 
six years, and in that time he had married his first wife, Miss 
Elizabeth Fleming, also of Wilmington. She bore him a son 
and soon after died; this must have been in 1828. The son, 
Thos. Frederick Davis, Jr., lived to graduate with the first hon- 
ors of the University of North Carolina, to enter the sacred 
Ministry of our Church ; and, after a novitiate in North Caro- 
lina, to follow his father into this, our Diocese, to succeed him 
in the charge of Grace Church, Camden, and to engrave twice 
over, by his fervid piety and brilliant talents, the name of his 
father in the records of the Diocese, and in the hearts of our 
people. As they of Camden have had a double privilege in this 
particular, so, also, have they had a double loss and a repeated 
sorrow, for the dust of the father has been now, at length, laid 
side by side with the dust of the son in their cemetery; and the 


only solace in our common bereavement is the thought of that 
happy meeting but yesterday between father and son, in the bet- 
ter country, where we must all strive to join them. 

Up to this period of the Bishop's life, we have no record 
whatever of his religious character or development ; he never 
spoke of any ; but now, upon the death of his first wife, the Holy 
Spirit's pleadings with his soul were multiplied, and in the day 
of their power, he became willing and obedient. The Baptismal 
covenant, (never forgotten by our gracious God, who, though 
we believe not, yet both in his justice and mercy " abideth faith- 
ful,") was at once ratified and confirmed with the laying on of 
hands ; and more than that, so deeply stirred were the fountains 
of his moral nature, as to cause him, almost without hesitation, 
to abandon the practice of the law with all the assured dis- 
tinctions of a secular life, and to throw himself with fixed pur- 
pose and holy ardor of soul into the work of the Ministry. And 
yet such a determination was far above a sudden desire, a human 
natural choice, a rushing-in where angels fear to tread; it must 
have been, as with some of us, a conclusion guided by a Heaven- 
ly power, a conviction, shrinking, humble and prayerful, yet 
ever returning, persistent and prevailing, that except the new 
Christian life be fixed in its aim, and exercised in such work as 
the Ministry, it will die out. Be he willing, or be he unwilling, 
the servant, who is called and truly sent into the Ministry by 
the Master himself, must feel, and be persuaded, and say with 
the great Apostle, " necessity is laid upon me ; yea, woe is 
unto me, if I preach not the Gospel !" 

His preparatory studies were not comprehensive, neither were 
they protracted. His collegiate education had set him well for- 
ward in general culture, and his legal studies and business habits 
had already given him advantages over most of our theological 
students. He was ordained a Deacon, in St. James' Church, 
Wilmington, by Bishop Ives, of the Diocese of North Carolina, 
on the 27th day of November, 1831. He was then twenty-seven 
years of age. In the following year he was ordained a Priest, 
again by" Bishop Ives, in the town of Pittsboro' and in the 
Church of St. Bartholomew, on the 16th day of December. 

The Ministry of his Diaconate and the first year of his Priest- 
hood were spent in hard, fatiguing missionary work. The towns 
of Wadesboro' and Pittsboro' were ioo miles apart, and in each 
of these he gave services on the alternate Sundays, driving in a 
conveyance from one to the other during the week. He had now 
married again ; his second wife, who was Miss Ann Ivie Moore, 
also of Wilmington, being still with us, the survivor of her dis- 
tinguished husband. She always accompanied him in his mis- 
sionary drives ; and when the question was once asked, where 
they lived — the answer was truly given in these words : " On 
the road." The fruits of this active work were the establishing 
of Calvary Church in Wadesboro', and the building and conse- 
cration of St. Bartholomew's Church in Pittsboro' ; this was in 


A demand was now made for his services in Wilmington, and 
thither he removed to spend the next three years of his useful life. 
As Rector of St. James' Church, he was not long in working him- 
self down. For, besides the care of his own flock — a large one — 
the city missionary work was constantly engaging his attention ; 
and among the poor, the sailors and the strangers, he was ever 
ready to do his Lord service. The consequence was sickness 
with necessary rest for one year. But, again, we find him well 
enough, or thinking himself well enough, to remove to a more 
invigorating climate and enter upon his duties as Rector of St. 
Luke's Church, Salisbury, a town in the interior of the State. 
Here he lived for ten years, in charge of a growing Parish, and, 
besides, of neighboring missionary stations, and even the distant 
congregations in Lexington and Mocksville. Yet God gave 
him strength and grace for it all, and the work prospered under 
his hands. No less than six churches and stations were supplied 
by this zealous, indefatigable Minister of the Cross during these 
ten years, the most active and long continued residence, of his 
pastoral life. But it would be a mistake to suppose that, even 
then, he enjoyed good health. In fact, from the very first of his 
ministry to the very last days of his life, the disease of a nervous 
debility was dragging down the unconquerable soul within 
him ; and though, time after time, the strong will of the man 

would prevail, and the intellect would shine out from within, and 
the warm heart glow and kindle his own and others' feelings — 
yet each effort would be followed by fatigues and depressions, 
which the body seemed scarce able to repair, and the unflinch- 
ing purpose of the man was taxed to repeat. 

Meanwhile, in the Diocese of North Carolina, he had become 
very highly esteemed for his own and his work's sake. At the 
Conventions his voice and influence were felt and acknowledged; 
but he was, with a small minority, tired out in the struggle with 
views and influences which prevailed in high places, and which, 
finally, after he had left North Carolina, had their reward in the 
sad defection of their chief promoter, and their rebuke in the 
healthy re-action of the Diocese. 

God overruled, in His way, even the anxieties and troubles of 
our perplexed presbyter and future bishop at this time ; for he 
then laid-in lasting stores, and built deep foundations of theo- 
logical study, facts of History, variations of doctrine, arguments 
of controversy ; but, most of all, with strong and deep expe- 
riences, with profound meditations, and with great searchings of 
heart, he wrought out for himself a clear understanding of the 
Truth, as it is in Jesus, and of the Church, its appointed pillar 
and ground. He comprehended and he rejoiced in the position 
and the work which God has assigned to the Anglican Church 
among the divisions of Christendom. That position, with no 
vulgar intolerance, he held to be eminent, because based upon 
the whole truth, Holy and Catholic, reasonable and religious. 
That work he believed to be the bearing and the poising of the 
standard of the Cross, ever at the highest, and above the de- 
flections of jarring and extreme opinion. Other churches, he 
did not doubt, might have the standard, too, as fighting for the 
same cause, and only separated in the same field, as sometimes 
troops are in the day of battle by inequalities of ground or ob- 
stacles of topography ; but he believed we held the centre. 
That the centre, either in theology or churchmanship, was to 
be esteemed, as nicely and exactly defined a point, as the geome- 
tricians would make it — he never for a moment believed. The 


fact is, for the Church Militant, the centre must be swaying, now 
advancing now beaten back, and again advancing, as the tide of 
war, and the surging hosts of the hostile ages require new 
strategy and new supplies of heavenly wisdom. Then, again, 
truth, of such kind as we are concerned with, is never given 
us, is never to be found by us in precise points and sharply de- 
fined lines, because, as Pascal remarks, our instruments of touch 
and apprehension are too blunt and imperfect, they miss, or let 
it drop, or slide off to either side in vain attempts. No — the cen- 
tre, in our Bishop's estimation, however real a thing it was, and, 
however certainly he believed our Church to contain, cover and 
occupy it, was, after all, only somewhere within the bounds of 
extreme opinions in our Church. And, accordingly, if he came 
out of the controversy with little affection for those tendencies 
to externals and primitive traditions which so alarmed and of- 
fended him — if, as some thought, he neglected to follow out the 
roots of what is called Churchmanship, it must be confessed that 
he had great advantages in seeing for himself the poisonous 
fruits of that excessive Ecclesiasticism which too often takes its 

But this, in passing. We return to his life, and find him 
moving, in 1846, from the Diocese of North to that of South 
Carolina. He has accepted a call to the Rectorship of Grace 
Church, Camden, and henceforth his lot is to be cast among us. 

There, faithfully, for six years he continued, constantly grow- 
ing closer and closer to his people's affections, commanding 
their attention by his earnest, eloquent and godly teachings, 
and winning upon their confidence by his sympathy and his 
prudence, his good judgment and his wise counsels. They felt 
that he was dear to them, and little thought how strongly that 
quiet influence of the man was raying out, all around and be- 
yond them, to the whole community of Camden. For a striking 
instance, in proof of his uncommon power of making friends 
wherever he went, is worthy of mention. During his Rectorship 
in Camden, the congregation of St. John's Church, Fayetteville, 
N. C, called him, with warmth and urgency, back to his native 

1 1 

State and Diocese. He considered the call very seriously, and, 
when it became known to some citizens of Camden not con- 
nected with our communion, that he was hesitating, and, per- 
haps, might decide to leave, they came forward to the Vestry of 
Grace Church and freely pledged themselves to assist in offering 
him all possible inducements to remain where he was. 

Yet he was but little known in the Diocese of South Carolina ; 
hurried annual visits to Convention scarcely made up for pro- 
tracted confinement to his parish duties. But, all at once, proof 
came again of the power and the value of this gifted, modest 
man; and, this time, it was proof both startling and distin- 

By the death of the Right Rev. Christopher Edwards Gads- 
den, the Diocese of South Carolina was then without its chief 
officer. The Convention, which met in Charleston, May, 1853, 
proceeded to the election of a Bishop, and after much ineffectual 
balloting, the choice gradually inclined to one who was almost 
a stranger in the Diocese, but, nevertheless, commanded more 
general confidence than any other candidate, and who, at length, 
receiving the almost, if not altogether, unanimous vote of clergy 
and laity, was declared unanimously elected Bishop of the Dio- 
cese of South Carolina. The Bishop elect was Thomas Freder- 
ick Davis : the suddenness, the strangeness, the surprise were all 
of God ; and gratefully now may we recognize His guidance, 
who then was bestowing on us a blessing, when we least were 
aware of it. 

Let me mention here some additional evidence of the wisdom 
and providential guiding of that choice. The Diocese of North 
Carolina was vacant also at the time; its Convention was ex- 
pected to meet after our own, and many longing eyes had been 
directed to their absent Presbyter, when, with disappointment 
mixed with pride, they must have learned how this Diocese had 
forestalled them, and elevated to the Episcopate their own dis- 
tinguished son. 

The consecration of Bishop Davis, together with the Bishop 
of the Diocese of North Carolina, Thomas Atkinson, who still 
survives him, took place in the City of New York, 17th October, 


1 85 3.* In February of 1854, he took his seat for the first time 
as presiding officer of the Diocesan Convention, and it happened 
to be exactly the date of his fiftieth birth-day. 

It was not long before all began to see the good and great 
qualities of our new Diocesan. Party spirit calmed down in 
his presence, and from first to last of his Episcopate has been 
waning and passing away in larger views, in more forbearance, 
in diligence and zeal of good works. Never has an administra- 
tion been so harmonizing and tranquilizing as his has been. 
The secret of this success, under the blessing of Almighty God, 
must have been in the man, his character, his policy, his preach- 
ing, his piety and opinions. On these, if time permits, we may 
enlarge further on ; but, for the present, let us complete the 
review of his life by just touching on a few remaining points. 

The approach of his blindness was at first very gradual. He 
always wore glasses for near-sightedness, and one day, in trying 
them before purchasing at a dealer's, he was startled at finding 
the sight of one eye greatly impaired. No outward appearance 
had indicated it, no pain had preceded it ; unconsciously and 
insidiously the nervous disorder from which he had been suffer- 
ing had fastened on these delicate organs, and by paralysis of 
the optic nerve, first one, then the other eye became seriously 
affected. Consultations and surgical operations were held and 
conducted. In 1S58, he visited England and the Continent of 
Europe. In Paris he took the highest and most renowned sur- 
gical and medical advice; in Philadelphia and in Columbia, 
South Carolina, he was operated upon for a cataract which had 
made its appearance, but only as an effect and not a cause of 
disease. No relief came, and about the year 1 86 1 or 1 862, his eye- 
sight, which had been gradually failing for four years, was entirely 

* The Consecration took place in St. John's Chapel. More than thirty Bishops were 
present. The Presiding Bishop was Brownell, who, with Bishops Hopkins, Smith, 
Spencer, (of the Church of" England,) and others, officiated on the occasion. The Rev. 
Dr. Hanckel, of South Carolina, assisted in the services. The Sermon was by the Bishop 
of Frederickton, N. S., from 2 Tim. I: 5, 6. The Bishop-Elect of South Carolina was 
presented by Bishops Greeji and Freeman. The Bishop-Elect of North Carolina, by 
Bishops Whittingham and Cobbs. 

lost, or rather taken from him, by the all-wise Providence and 
the chastening hand of his Heavenly Father. The Bishop felt 
his affliction with a poignancy none, not even his dearest friends, 
might ever know ; but he never murmured, and he lived to 
declare repeatedly, that if it were God's will to restore his eye- 
sight, he himself would hardly consent to give up in exchange 
those spiritual blessings and graces which, in his blindness, had 
been vouchsafed to him. He was truly and sincerely thankful 
for the trial ; in fact, he gloried, like St. Paul, in this, his special 
tribulation ; for him it worked patience, and patience experience, 
and experience hope, and hope made not ashamed, because the 
love of God was shed abroad in his heart by the Holy Ghost 
which is given unto us. The sightless eyes were scarcely at all 
disfigured ; and, except by his movements, one would hardly, at 
a little distance, have suspected the infirmity which cast its 
shadow over his life. And yet it deprived him never entirely of 
his buoyancy, his playfulness or his pleasantries. We can re- 
member the worn face relaxing and brightening sometimes, 
though bereft of the sparkling eye, and the old time sunny 
smile. We can picture him moving slowly about the room, 
with tall figure and faithful walking cane, and almost wait to 
hear the striking of the cane against the furniture, as he felt his 
way in darkness to his accustomed seat. Or, how often, in the 
services of the Sanctuary have we not been touched by his ap- 
pearance as he entered, leaning on some supporting arm ; or 
guided, at Confirmation, so as to lay his hands on the heads of 
the Candidates kneeling at the rail! Once, in a favorable mo- 
ment, I remember asking him, whether the thought of his blind- 
ness was often in his mind ? He replied, No ; but soon after 
added, in sad, measured tones, "Sometimes, when I am just 
about opening my lips to address a large and strange congrega- 
tion, I feel as if there were walls of darkness between them and 

But grateful though it should be to linger on dear memories 
like these, I am admonished to hasten forward with my theme. 

The Theological Seminary, established for the Diocese in 
1859, and first located in Camden, so as to be immediately con^ 

venient to the Bishop, was mainly a creation of his own. He 
took the greatest interest in it, and Professors and students alike, 
together, looked up to him for cheer and counsel and instruction. 
Now it is no more, and our prostrate Diocese instead of ten, 
has not even two Students of Divinity awaiting Orders. But no 
more pleasing associations will cling to its memory, than those 
of our informal, weekly evenings at the Bishop's, when profes- 
sors and students would hear him speak unreservedly and elo- 
quently of the wisdom of God, and make manifest the mystery 
of Christ, and dwell on the constitution of the Church, and all 
unconsciously in his blindness, stir our souls with somewhat of 
the love of Christ, which glowed so brightly in his own. 

The War came on, and with it, and ever since, change and 
decay. How the Bishop reasoned out powerfully as a states- 
man, and devoutly as a theologian, the situation and the new 
sectional adjustments necessary for the Church in the Southern 
States ; how he entirely and warmly sympathized with the Cause 
and the ill-ending of the Confederacy ; how he rallied the broken, 
shattered ranks of his Diocese, and counted up his losses, being 
no less than twenty Clergymen, removed in two years after the 
close of the war — you all know too well. It is a sad story, but 
it is the Lord's will, and we together took up the burden and 
the care, that we might cast them upon Him who hath prom- 
ised to care for us and sustain us. 

But the burden was becoming too heavy for our Bishop ; age, 
too, was adding its weight to his iife-long infirmities, and so at 
length he gave notice, as early as the first year after the close of 
the War, that he would, whenever he felt he could not do with- 
out one, apply for the election of an Assistant. The actual notice 
came in 1870, and, accordingly, at the Diocesan Convention of 
the present year, which met in Charleston last May, an election 
was held, resulting in the choice of the present Bishop, and suc- 
cessor of our departed Diocesan. 

One bright chapter, at least, was granted him towards the 
close of his Episcopate, and that was the General Convention in 
Baltimore last fall. He spoke of it in Baltimore as being — to 
some, whose days were numbered, and to whom the night of 


death was drawing near- — a glorious sunset view granted by the 
Head of the Church to his departing servants! He returned from 
it refreshed in body and spirit, preaching and confirming at 
Florence, where he presided at the consecration of St. John's 
Church, and again, the following Sunday, preaching, on the 
occasion of the opening of the new Grace Church, in Camden, 
which God spared him to enter in life, before in death — his body 
was borne up its aisle. How little we all, who heard him, thought, 
as we listened to him that day — the twenty-fourth Sunday after 
Trinity, being the 19th day of November — >that the sermon he 
was preaching was to be his last! How little prepared were we 
for the shock of his sudden death — painless to him, but ah ! 
how painful to us ! Little prepared were we for it ; but oh how 
well prepared was he for the summons of his Lord ! 

Had wc forgotten the many times that frail body had been 
wearied in our service ? Had we lost count of the heart-throbs, 
the sinkings, the exhaustions, which always followed in the 
wake of those efforts, he concealed from us, but would rouse 
himself to make for our good, and the glory of his Redeemer's 
Kingdom ? Had custom so blunted our perception as to en- 
tirely deceive us into supposing him really to be stronger than 
he looked, really to be more capable and enduring in his old 
age than in his youth ? I cannot tell ; but, shocked as we were, 
the truth, when it was all over, seemed very apparent, and that 
truth was, his body had been all the time a living sacrifice to 
the cause of his Master ; as a whole burnt offering laid on the 
altar of his consecration, the last embers of it were consuming 
under our eyes and we knew it not ! Weakness ! weariness ! 
blindness ! none of those things had moved him, neither had 
he counted his life dear unto himself, so that he might finish 
his course with joy, and the Ministry which he had received of 
the Lord Jesus, to testify the Gospel of the grace of God ! 

Our dear Bishop died in Camden on the 2d of December, the 
last day of the Christian year just passed. A severe spell of cold 
weather had confined him to the house, with a slight indisposi- 
tion during the three or four preceding days ; but so little did 
he or his family look for danger, that he was expecting, up to 


the day before his death, to keep an appointment for Confirma- 
tion in Sumter, which would have required him to leave home 
the very day he^died, being Saturday. His physician, however, 
persuaded him, in consequence chiefly of the cold weather, from 
which he always constitutionally suffered, to give up the ap- 
pointment. On Saturday morning, he awoke refreshed after a 
good night's rest, but soon complained of sudden chilly and 
faint feelings. Vigorous but simple remedies were used by the 
family, and the doctor was sent for. The Bishop meanwhile 
appeared to grow more comfortable, and spoke very naturally 
to his wife and daughter, who were at his bedside. But, again, 
while they were ministering to him a sudden chill or congestion 
caused him to shiver a little, and as they drew closer to him in 
tender service of affection, the breath of life departed with no 
more struggle than a gentle sigh. He had walked with God, 
like Enoch, and he was not. Like Enoch, almost it appeared as 
though " God took him." This was at nine o'clock Saturday 
morning. From lip to lip sped the evil tidings of his death ; 
from one end of the Diocese to the other the message was sent ; 
and ere the sad day of his decease had closed in mournful night, 
thousands were sorrowing over their loss. Many churches (next 
day being Sunday) were draped in mourning ; preparations were 
made for attendance at his funeral, and, on the Monday follow- 
ing, his remains, borne by six Clergymen and two Laymen, into 
Grace Church for the Burial service, performed by his successor 
in the Episcopate, were finally carried to the grave amid the 
throng of the whole community, and the tolling of the bells, 
lending honors to the dead, proffering sympathy to the living, 
and sounding forth the sorrow of all hearts. Simple were the 
rites, for he loved simplicity, yet royal were the words of trium- 
phant Christian hope and faith, with which we laid him in the 
grave. "Earth to earth — ashes to ashes — dust to dust," indeed — 
yet "looking for the general Resurrection in the last day and the 
life of the world to come, through our Lord Jesus Christ, at 
whose second coming in glorious majesty to judge the world, the 
earth and the sea shall give up their dead, and the corruptible 
bodies of those who sleep in Him shall be changed and made like 


unto His own glorious body, according to the mighty working 
whereby He is able to subdue all things unto himself!" 

And now, let us ask ourselves, wherein lay the goodness and 
the greatness of this good and great man ? 

His Episcopate, we have said, was wisely and harmoniously 
administered ; it was more marked than that. From the very 
first, it was his declared policy to be a Missionary Bishop, to 
carry the Gospel to the destitute, and extend in the upper dis- 
tricts of the State, where our Church was but little known, a 
better knowledge of her pure and primitive constitution. The 
old and settled Parishes of the Low country, he saw, could spare 
much of his supervision ; and, without ever forgetting them, he 
bent his mind upon other work, and labored more abundantly 
in fresher fields. Such were the advantages of his early training 
in intercourse with men, in the practical affairs of the Law, in the 
arduous life of a missionary presbyter — such were the sincerity 
of his address, the straightforward yet considerate advances of 
the man — such the genial play of his sympathies — the exactness 
and retentiveness of his memory, as regards persons, places and 
things — the readiness and effectiveness of his preaching, and the 
wisdom of his appointments and selection of men to carry on the 
work — that the Church grew rapidly in all directions, where it 
had scarcely been heard of before, and the vigorous heart of the 
interior responded with an ardor and admiration for the man and 
his ministry which will never die out, but will preserve the 
memory of " the old Bishop," more particularly in those parts 
of the Diocese, green and fragrant for many generations. From 
many such congregations of his founding or fostering have been 
returned material aid and comfort to the once flourishing, but 
now wasted, parishes of our still desolated Seaboard. 

His Character, or disposition, by nature strong and nervous 
and stern, was made, by the grace of God, to take in to its rather 
angular constitution large secret elements of love and tender- 
ness ; and without ever losing its more robust or severe traits, to 
cttow more and more into the likeness of the perfect man, even 
into the image of the meekness and gentleness of Christ. Yet 
it was one of those characters intended by the Creator to be 


always more ready to press than to yield — to act upon others 
rather than to be acted upon by others. As a character, it had 
for its very key-stone a rare habit of truthfulness in everything ; 
in thought, in manner, in word and in deed, his was a deep love 
of truth, pure in its ideal, exact in its expression, severe in its 
application. Nothing so saddened him as the deterioration of 
personal probity and social tone ; in his estimation, they were 
proud possessions, and their decay was like the removing of 

Again, he had abundant independence ; he had self-reliance 
without vain-glory ; he had caution, without the " craven scru- 
ple of thinking too precisely on th' event;" judgment, without 
vacillation, fastidiousness or punctiliousness ; firmness, without 
stubbornness ; gentleness, without any weakness, sentimentality 
or affectation. There remained always in the Bishop more of 
the fortiter in re than of the suaviter in modo ; yet not so much 
the more was he a man of action than of thought. Previous to 
his later infirmities of blindness and helplessness, perhaps he 
was more a man of action than a man of thought. Certainly, 
after he was thrown in upon himself, it was to be expected 
that would be changed, and so it was ; he became pre- 
eminently a man of thought, his mind perpetually brooded 
over the great deeps of God's truth and judgments; yet neither 
did his blindness prevent him from Episcopal visitations, often 
the most active and fatiguing, nor did his thoughtfulncss over- 
grow his interest in the practical duties of life. His preaching, 
alone, towards the latter years of his life, did sometimes betray, 
as it rarely did before his blindness, this tendency to stop short 
of applications in the desire to think out all the lines of pure 
thought suggested by his subject. But even here I may be mis- 
taken as to his intentions, which may have earnestly been set to 
apply the truth in practical lessons, yet, before the point of ap- 
plication was reached in the discourse, were diverted and de- 
feated by nervous and mental fatigue. 

In general, his Preaching was close and logical, absolutely 
free from cant, or excessive use of mere technicalities of religious 
books. Yet it was always fiesh, striking and effective; and if 


eloquence be, as some one has defined it, " Logic set on fire," 
Bishop Davis was often truly eloquent ; for his animation would 
kindle with his subject, and his subject would shine back into 
his mind, and thence would shoot forth, at times, rays of bright 
light, and tongues of flame and passion, and burning words of 
truth, searching the hearts of all his hearers. The grace of God 
which bringeth Salvation ; the Lamb of God which taketh away 
the Sin of the world ; the Spirit of God, which worketh in us 
both to will and to do of his good pleasure, were all, in tri-unity 
of Divine love and power, brought forward to his hearers ; yet 
no man was farther from adopting a scheme of indifferent mercy 
or inactive faith. He held up, continually, the fact of the cor- 
ruption of Sin, and the constant need of Repentance and Renewal. 
He strove always to impress upon the believer, not the merit of 
Works, but trie absolute necessity of zvorking out each his own 
salvation. He contended always for the freedom of man in the 
choice of good and ill, though quietly reposing before the un- 
questioned mystery of God's sovereignty and omniscience. 
" Mystery !" said he, in his last sermon, " yes, we Christians 
shrink not from mystery ; we have mystery and truth ; sceptics 
have plainness and error !" 

And, Brethren, he had a profound mind, capable of fathoming, 
beyond most men's reach, the mysteries of life, death and im- 
mortality, of weighing the unsearchable riches of Christ, of 
measuring the exceeding breadth of God's commandments. His 
endowments were less imaginative than intellectual, less syn- 
thetic than analytic, less intuitive than ratiocinative. To 
some his oratory may have seemed lacking in warmth and 
colour, but it always presented solid, clear-cut and shining 
thought ; to some his sermons may have appeared unfinished 
works, but they never failed to be striking expositions and co- 
gent arguments. His premises were always laid upon the broadest 
principles : his objectors were fairly met : his ground was swept 
clean, and then you saw the logical structure rise before you, the 
pieces finding their joinery, the arguments falling into their 
places, and the movement proceeding with infallible certainty of 
aim and inevitable approach nearer and nearer, unto the perfect 


ending and conclusion of the whole matter! It is known that 
in the House of Bishops, at the last Convention in Baltimore, 
he spoke at length on the subject of Baptismal Regeneration, 
and with such power as to attract the most marked admiration. 

And so I might go on to tell you of many things which 
would, in greater or less degree, serve to explain some phase or 
feature of the good Bishop's self. Let but one more suffice, and 
I shall conclude. We have alluded to his fondness and aptitude 
for mystery. Not long since, in commenting on a Memorial 
sermon, wherein mention had been made of the dying Christian's 
desire to grasp some sure notion of the unseen world, some 
conception of the state of the soul after it is released from the 
burden of the flesh, some intelligible idea of the presence of 
God, the Bishop said to my informant, " Do you know that 
passage in your sermon touched me more than anything else. 
I too am constantly puzzling myself with just those very ques- 
tions, and I cannot get at all into the mystery which envelops 

And think of that old man now, endowed with eternal youth, 
no longer straining his earthly powers over the brink of the 
grave to make out the things which to us in this life are unseen 
because eternal, no longer peering into blank vacuity of mys- 
tery, but with some angelic guide visiting the shrine within the 
vail, gazing with unsealed eyes upon the great Mystery of God- 
liness, God manifest in the flesh, and seeing the very Beauty of 
Holiness, face to face ! 

And these, while he preached and talked to us of plainer 
things, these were the subjects that most engaged his mind, a 
mind bound down continually by weights and bands to such a 
body. Yet frail as that body was, dust as it is, the corruptible 
shall put on incorruption, the mortal shall put on immortality, 
and it shall rise again, and may God grant us all the joy of 
seeing it once more, and having together " our perfect consum- 
mation and bliss both in body and soul, in His eternal and ever- 
lasting glory !" 

Yes, our dear Bishop's soul seemed to be bound down by the 
body in this life, all through the tedious days of the years of his 


lengthened pilgrimage ; nevertheless, as the Apostle Paul, went 
"bound in the spirit" unto Jerusalem below, so every step in his 
blindness and infirmity took our Bishop so much nearer home, to 
the Jerusalem which is above. There, in due time, now he will 
surely come ; and already with the departed Saints of all ages, 
and with the great Apostle, whose words have been our text — he 
has finished his course with joy, and the Ministry which he re- 
ceived of the Lord Jesus, to testify the Gospel of the grace of 

How often has he not testified the Gospel of the grace of God 
to each and all of us ! And with such power, I doubt not, as 
made us feel it, and our dread responsibility under it. Remem- 
ber then, dear Brethren, that above there — the Bishop waits to see 
us, one after another enter, that he may rejoice over us as a 
shepherd over the sheep and lambs of his flock, once scattered, 
but now come to the one fold and the ONE Shepherd of their 
souls ! Revere then his memory ! Treasure his example ! Love 
the man yet ! But remember, you will love him now, only as 
you love the words which he left you, and hate the things which 
he taught you to hate, and cling to the cross of Christ which he 
upheld before you !